We learn the man in the mirror’s dramatic back story and get confirmation once again — as if we needed any more confirmation — that the Evil Queen is truly evil. The episode ends with two twists, one in each world.
The man in the mirror is an Aladdin-like genie who feels imprisoned in his lamp. King Leopold, Snow’s father, generously uses one of his wishes to give the genie his freedom. But wishes, like Rumpelstiltskin’s magic, come with a price — and wishes always backfire.
The genie falls in love at first sight with the Evil Queen (who we learn is called Regina in the fairytale world too). The EQ, meanwhile, feels despondent because she knows Leopold will never love her the way he loved his first wife (Snow’s mother).
The EQ (aided by her father, who is still alive in this piece of the backstory) leads the genie to believe that she will commit suicide-by-viper. The genie has a brainstorm — use the snakes to kill the King instead.
But, in the first twist in the episode, we see the EQ has been manipulating the genie all along. She never intended to kill herself. She doesn’t love the genie. She used him to get what she wanted. The genie doesn’t care. He just loves her and wants to be with her forever. Ooops! He shouldn’t have wished for that. Now we know how he got into that mirror.
In Storybrooke, Sidney corners Emma and says he’s had a falling out with the mayor. All of a sudden he’s gone from being the mayor’s toady to being an investigative journalist who wants to go all Watergate on the mayor’s butt.
He convinces an initially reluctant Emma to join in his crusade to prove that Regina has stolen $50,000 from the city to build another home for herself in the woods.
In the end, though, it turns out that the mayor was building a children’s playground in the woods. It seems innocent enough, except that the playground just happened to look like King Leopold’s castle, and it had something to do with a late-night meeting with Mr. Gold in the middle of woods, which surely couldn’t have been a good thing.
And then, the twist ending: Sidney was working for Regina all along.
Also, Mary Margaret and David have a romantic picnic, and the Mysterious Stranger reappears. He now has Henry’s book.
What I liked most
I liked the man in the mirror’s backstory. Considering we had only seen him before as a (literally) two-dimensional character, the liveliness of his backstory was a pleasant surprise.
I liked the cameo reappearance of the EQ’s father.
I loved both twist endings. Both of them took me by surprise.
Much of the Storybrooke plot had to do with Emma and Regina locking horns in a power struggle once again, making their moves via law, procedure, town meetings, etc. And once again, I found it hard to believe any of it, as I kept on thinking Regina could just point her finger at Emma, unleash a thunderbolt, and be rid of her once and for all.
Theme: Freedom, imprisonment, and love
Sidney, as a genie, yearned for freedom so he could find love. When he was finally free and fell in love, he gave away his freedom in order to keep his one-sided love going. He ended up where he began — imprisoned inside an inanimate object.
Regina felt imprisoned in her marriage to the King. She lied to Sidney, telling him she sought freedom in suicide, when she really sought it in murder. But was she really free after the King was dead?
Fruit of the Poisonous Tree
The episode’s title has at least two meanings.
First it’s a term of art in law, where it means that evidence obtained by illegal means, and any evidence obtained later as a result of the initial illegal act, cannot be used in court. Emma used illegal means — bugging Regina’s office — to find out where Regina was going. Any evidence Emma might have found after chasing Regina would have been inadmissible, because it would all be the “fruit” of the “poisonous” illegal bug. Same thing with the breaking and entering into Regina’s office.
In Storybrooke, though, the law of evidence operates in semi-magical ways. In a more normal place, the evidence might have been discarded because it was thrown out in court. Here, though, the evidence that Emma thought she found of Regina’s wrongdoing had to be discarded because it turned out not to be what it seemed.
In Storybrooke, the means can’t justify the ends. There has to be an alignment of method and results. Emma cannot find the truth unless she uses the right methods.
The second meaning of the episode title is that it’s a reference to Regina’s poisonous apples. We saw Regina tending her apple tree in both worlds in this episode.
There could be some other meanings too:
It could be a reference to the poisonous snakes that killed the King. The “fruit” of that event was the genie evoking the third wish.
It could also be a reference to the genie getting involved with the Evil Queen in the first place. She, being evil, is poisonous, and everything that happens to the genie after he throws his lot in with her must also be poisonous.
Didn’t see any this time.
Is it possible that Sidney is really working against Regina? Could he be a double agent, and could his alliance with Emma be the real one after all?
Why did the Mysterious Stranger take Henry’s book? In the comments section of last week’s recap, several people thought that the Mysterious Stranger was the author of Henry’s book, which I thought was a great idea. But, if so, why would he steal his own book? Also, I noticed that this week Henry seemed to share my initial skepticism about whether the Mysterious Stranger was really a writer at all. If he’s not a writer, who could he be? And how did he get into Storybrooke?